Passing records in jeopardy

Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees could challenge passing records. AP Photo, Getty Images

Last year, Drew Brees showed how NFL records were made to be broken, shattering Dan Marino's 1984 single-season passing mark by 392 yards. While it was an impressive feat, that record may not last long.

This year, the increasing talent of the NFL, combined with an added emphasis on the passing game, puts Brees' single-season mark squarely in the crosshairs.

First, a bit of a disclaimer. saying that a record is "likely" to fall prior to a season is a fool's errand. To be clear, that's not what we're saying here. However, circumstances seem to be combining to give certain elite players a better-than-normal chance to surpass some impressive statistical high-water marks.

Changes in the game since pass-happy Marino's record-breaking year have opened the door for more than one top QB to eclipse this once lofty mark. Rule changes to protect QBs and receivers have taken the teeth out of defenses. Tight ends have become more athletic, emerging as valuable targets in the passing game -- both hauling in passes and opening up space for their pass-catching teammates. Multiple receiver sets are more common on what were once considered to be running downs. Teams in 2011 threw the ball around 57 percent of the time -- and that trend that is almost certain to continue.

With circumstances conspiring for yet another "year of the quarterback," here are three elite QBs that could take aim at Brees' record in 2012.